Houston-area teacher brings hope and ideas to El Paso educators

A lesson in geography and life

POSTED: 07:16 AM MDT Jun 13, 2013    UPDATED: 05:10 PM MST Jan 15, 2014 
EL PASO, Texas -

It isn't always easy teaching EL Paso students the unfamiliar rituals, values and traditions of cultures on the other side of the world.

Local teachers say most of their students have not made it far from the borderland.

"It's not an easy job, and it gets harder every year, as we all know," human and world geography teacher Susan Hollier said. "But it's worth it.  Because what better thing do we have to do than the future?  That's what these kids are."

Hollier has been making her annual trip from the Houston-area to El Paso for years.  It's one of her stops during the summer where she travels across the country helping teachers find creative new ways to bring the world to their junior high and high school classrooms.

"When you start with the local, then it's a lot easier to understand the global," Hollier said.

The teacher says that in order for students to make connections with traditions across the globe, they need to learn out their homes have been affected by the outside world first.

Hollier uses little-known historical facts about El Paso history, and shows teachers how the connections to the outside world can be made.

She says the "Turtle House" located in Sunset Heights was once a smuggling station with an underground tunnel leading to the Rio Grande.  The tunnel was not built to funnel illegal Mexican immigrants.  She says it was built to transport unwanted Chinese Immigrants who were not allowed to come through the ports of entry.

The classroom, full of high school teachers from nearly every school district in the borderland, discussed the past of El Paso's education and its future.

Teachers spoke of how El Paso children look to the outside to try to be like someone from another city.  Hollier says students merely need to look under their feet to find the world.

"Make your students proud they are from EL Paso," Hollier said.